Sow there! – Recipes for good eggplant few and far between, Aug. 11, 2016

Sow there! – Recipes for good eggplant few and far between

August 11, 2016

I’m not a big fan of eating eggplant. The texture is mush and the taste is bland unless mixed with foods that actually contain flavor.

As an ornamental, this member of the nightshade family is a beauty. The shiny, deep-purple skin makes eggplant an old standby in still life paintings. The flowers are also stunning, with lavender, pointed petals and contrasting yellow centers.

Yet, you lose that aesthetic beauty when the gray slices of eggplant hit the frying pan.

There are exceptional recipes, of course. Eggplant Parmesan is amazing. Also note that if you crispy-fry cardboard and slather it in marinara sauce and melted mozzarella, people will throw their arms in the air and exclaim “Mama mia!” I’ll also forgive the use of eggplant in stews and stir-fry. These dishes are a free-for-all and its hard to even know what you’re eating.

In contrast, my Handsome Woodsman claims he loves this summer and fall vegetable beauty. Among his favorite eggplant dishes is stewed tomatoes, garlic, onion and generous portions of eggplant. It’s actually tasty, as would be any bowl of mush seasoned with garlic and onions.

I was beginning to doubt his claims of deep eggplant appreciation. Over the past two years I have purchased particularly pleasing purple, fiber-filled eggplants. These looked beautiful when sitting, untouched, in the brown wooden bowl next to the microwave.

Of course, it’s my fault. He won’t cook a shared eggplant meal if he knows I will complain.

Ticklish food plants

Early this summer my beau came home with half a dozen eggplants — the actual plants — with green leaves.

We don’t seem to have bees in our backyard, but veggies are doing well if we remember to tickle the stems whenever we see flowers.

He tickled the plants when I wasn’t looking and now we have dozens of gorgeous, purple eggplant ready for him to eat.

By the way, tickling works for other plants, including peppers and tomatoes. These plants have flowers with both male and female parts. Often, wind does the job of moving the pollen where it needs to be. However, humans can help every flower become fruitful by tickling the stems. I even like to rattle the cage.

Eggplant suggestions

Back to eating: My bossman suggests slathering sliced eggplant in olive oil and garlic and grilling on the barbecue. Finish with a generous amount of Parmesan cheese. We also thoroughly enjoy the eggplant sushi tacos at Izakaya Ichiban on Notre Dame Boulevard. Large eggplant is sliced thin, breaded and frozen in the shape of a taco shell. When prepared, the shell is deep-fried and filled with sushi goodness.

August is hornworm month

August is national tomato hornworm month.

I had my first hornworm encounter this week, which means I found one worm and soon found two others.

Next time you’re standing next to your tomato plant and popping fruit into your mouth, be on the hunt for stripped stems.

This means you have a hornworm.

Other obvious signs are little globs or dark green or black on the leaves. This is hornworm poop.

Follow the stripped leaves with your eyes until you find the perfectly camouflaged hornworm. I like to chop them in half with the garden clippers.

From now until tomatoes are done for the season, gardeners may want to check their plants daily. To make it easier to see new hornworm damage, snip off the stripped stems as soon as you kill a new nibbler. This way you’ll be able to spot new damage.

At the end of the season, check for hornworm pupae under the surface of the soil where tomatoes once grew. These are leather-looking, lifeless bug capsules that will later hatch into the glorious sphinx moth. The big moth is helpful to pollinate night-blooming flowers. However the flyer will also lay eggs for future hungry hornworms.

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